Rebbetzin Aviva Thurgood
Beit Midrash Morasha
Boaz replied, saying to her, “I have been told of all that you did for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband, how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and came to a people you had not known yesterday, nor the day before that.”
וַיַּעַן בֹּעַז וַיֹּאמֶר לָהּ הֻגֵּד הֻגַּד לִי כֹּל אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂית אֶת חֲמוֹתֵךְ אַחֲרֵי מוֹת אִישֵׁךְ וַתַּעַזְבִי אָּבִיךְ וְאִמֵּךְ וְאֶרֶץ מוֹלַדְתֵּךְ וַתֵּלְכִי אֶל עַם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדַעַתְּ תְּמוֹל שִׁלְשׁוֹם.
Boaz said in reply, “I have been told of all that you did for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband, how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and came to a people you had not known before”.1
When Boaz first meets Ruth, he greets her with the words above. The Tanach is very careful with every single word chosen and so if the words remind you of Avraham being commanded by Hashem in Parshat Lech Lecha to, "Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you"2 then you would have indeed noticed the subtle connection between these two characters. Avraham is the embodiment of chessed, ‘kindness’, and Ruth is rewarded with King David as her descendant because of her kindness to her mother-in-law Naomi.
The story of Ruth occurs during the time of the Shoftim, ‘the Judges’.3 A time of famine, upheaval and discord, even at one point, civil war. The Jewish people have lost their inherent kindness, they've become stingy and immoral. It is clear that they lack leadership and guidance. The story of Ruth comes to heal the nation. A woman from the people of Moav, known for their immorality and selfishness - it's Ruth's ability to overcome her genetic tendencies and become the exact opposite of what her nature would suggest that allows for the teshuva, the ‘return’ of the Jewish people to Hashem.
Shavuot is a time for learning, but for me personally, I've always felt that it gives us the opportunity to also reflect. No learning should ever be in a vacuum, we study for the enjoyment of gaining knowledge, but to also change ourselves for the better. Reading Megillat Ruth, we should ask ourselves if we are on a path to achieving our greatest potential, we may feel that there are things that we need to work on and change.
Ruth was the catalyst for the return of the Jewish people, it was through her that the chaos was replaced by the leadership and guidance of King David. Ruth had everything stacked against her, Moav was the enemy, she was an outsider, she had nothing but herself to offer to her mother-in-law and yet her kindness was powerful enough to change the course of Jewish history!
Ruth, like Avraham, made a choice. By choosing to cleave to Naomi, Ruth created her own destiny and inspires us all, until today, to do the same.
1. Ruth 2:11
2. Genesis 12:1
3. Ruth 1:1